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Daughter tried to get round-the-clock dementia care for mom who wandered off, froze to death in Bronx
The New York Daily News - 2/18/2020
The devoted daughter of a Bronx woman whose dementia ended with her wandering off and freezing to death said she had been begging her mother’s insurance company for months to provide around-the-clock care.
The disappearance that ended in 73-year-old Genoveva Madera’s death was not the first time she had left home and got lost, her daughter Sue Veizaga said Tuesday.
“I’m devastated," Veizaga told the Daily News. "I hope that no one goes through this just because of medical insurance. I took care of her as much as I could.”
On the first accidental trip from her Mount Hope building, Madera made her way to Harlem last summer but returned home safely though shaken.
Ever since, Veizaga, 42, grew more and more concerned about her mother’s condition and had been asking her mom’s health insurance provider, Centers Plan for Healthy Living, for an around-the-clock home health aide to no avail, the daughter said.
As her mother’s situation unraveled, the company would only provide an aide during the daytime because “she wasn’t declining in their eyes," Veizaga said.
“I started to create night logs -- when I had to change her diaper and feed her -- so they could see,” Veizaga said. “I’m only one person. I don’t have any siblings. I’m also single so I have no help and can only do so much. She really needed the increase in hours for care -- and they really didn’t want to help.”
Centers Plan for Healthy Living did not respond to three requests for comment Tuesday.
Veizaga, of the Upper East Side, said she visited her mother regularly in the evenings to care for her.
She had surveillance installed in her mother’s apartment, Madera’s home of more than 20 years, in the hopes she could prevent her from wandering off again. The system alerted Veizaga anytime her mother passed the front door.
On Saturday evening she watched her mother feeding a cat by the front door. Five minutes later, her mother didn’t appear in any video transmissions so a worried Veizaga jumped in a car and started calling her mom’s neighbors.
Madera had walked out of her apartment in slippers and a fleece jacket. The temperature that night sank to a low of 14 degrees.
Early Sunday, cops released a photo of Madera and asked the public’s help tracking her down.
Meanwhile, Veizaga issued another desperate plea for help, this time on Facebook.
“I’m living a nightmare right now,” she wrote that afternoon in a frantic post.
The next day, Madera’s body was found by a passerby just a few blocks from her home in a grassy area near a playground.
Veizaga remembered her mom as a bubbly woman who loved to sing and dance and went to mass at St. Margaret Mary’s Church every Sunday before Alzheimer’s and dementia began racking her mind and body six years ago. Madera raised Veizaga on her own, working in a clothing factory to support her.
When Madera wandered from home in the summer, she was trying to get back to that job she held three decades ago.
“Even when she was sick, she was superbubbly, always smiling, always joking," Veizaga said. “She became more homebound and didn’t want to go out because of the disease.”
The building’s superintendent, Glen Hardwick, 60, described Madera as a “nice lady.”
He said he tried to look out for her, knowing she had wandered off before.
“I’d always ask her, ‘Where you going?’ So I could watch her wherever she went,” he said. "But sometimes I’m not here. When it’s cold, nobody is outside. If it was the summertime, people would’ve been out here and seen her.”
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